Back in the early days of my fitness journey I used to think exercise was about going all out. If I didn’t feel sore for days or need to nap immediately after my workout, then I wasn’t trying hard enough. I was very, very wrong.
It turns out that walking–pretty much the least intense exercise there is–is actually one of the best, and if you keep up with it regularly, it can have huge benefits for your well being.
I discovered walking (as a regular form of exercise/activity) a little over a year ago after my college sent me home at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. I suddenly had a lot of free time on my hands and needed a way to fill it. Rather than spend my whole day looking at screens I decided I’d take an hour each day to walk around my neighborhood.
I kept up with the habit pretty much every day that summer––even in the scorching 90/100+ degree heat of my home town––and loved it so much that I haven’t stopped since.
What was so amazing about it? So many things!
- It was a great exercise option when struggling with anxiety and depression. One of the biggest hurdles for me in exercise historically has been getting myself to the gym when I’m feeling down and once I’m there, convincing myself to try hard enough to actually make progress. With walking, there was nothing stopping me. Even when depressed, it took so little effort to just stand up and start moving slowly that I could keep up a much more regular schedule of physical activity.
- It drastically reduced my stress levels. Something about the repetitive motion of walking is very soothing to me. Every time I went on a walk and got a breath of fresh air, I instantly felt better.
- Walking improved my creativity. When not actively thinking about how I was exercising, like I always do with more intense sports (e.g. “how do I lift as much weight as possible”, “how do I climb this rock wall most efficiently”, etc.), I had time to just sit with my thoughts. I found myself coming up with ideas for my homework assignments or fun side projects way more often than when I wasn’t walking.
- Walking gave me an opportunity to learn simultaneously! Because walking is very calm, it affords the opportunity for multitasking and directing part of your attention elsewhere. I chose to use my walking time to listen to podcasts, and that extra hour a day of information taught me so many new things and exposed me to new ideas and new people I would not otherwise have known about.
- Walking made me happy. I always felt a mood boost after my walk!
- Walking energized me! I always felt more awake after my walks, particularly if I did them in the morning.
- Walking helped me manage my weight and feel good about myself. This is a weird idea at first since walking is not very calorie intensive, but if you do it regularly, it’s actually an amazing way to maintain or lose weight. In the pandemic, stress-related overeating has become more of a problem, and walking helped make sure that it didn’t negatively affect my health.
- Walking is incredibly safe. Unlike more intense sports, there’s close to zero risk of injury.
It can be hard sometimes to try and fit walking into your busy schedule, particularly because it feels so inefficient. Why walk for an hour when you could run for 20 minutes and burn the same amount of calories? Well in my experience, I think that it’s absolutely worthwhile, both for your mental and physical health.
Walking can change your life! It sure changed mine.
Stay tuned for tips on ways to fit 10,000 steps into your daily routine! It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely worth it to spend the time to figure out a way that works for you!
What do you think about walking? Is it something you do regularly? What benefits have you found? I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the comments!